Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Legends of Luke Skywalker


Just finished reading this one, The Legends of Luke Skywalker (Ken Liu, 2017), part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi event.

The premise is interesting: basically extrapolating from Rey's quote in The Force Awakens

"Luke Skywalker? I thought he was a myth."

This book is a series of short stories connected by some interludes; inter- (or intra*?)-story pieces wherein the beings sharing the "legends of Luke" discuss what they've heard, seen, believe, etc. I like the concept somewhat. I was hoping to spend time solely with my good buddy Luke. In particular, I was really hoping to learn something concrete about events after RotJ. Luke and I have a lot of catching up to do! Sadly, it was not to be; at least not in the way I'd hoped.

Some of the stories included herein are quite good. All have the theme of Luke traveling the galaxy (all post RotJ, I think) learning about disparate Force traditions. Other included stories are annoying. It seems rampant comedy is now a part of the canon. Not used as a spice, but as the main course. I am too serious of a SW fan (yes, that does sound sad) for me to enjoy that sort of thing. Perhaps least so when it comes to my old buddy Luke. (This is the same author who brought us the comedy piece "The Sith of Datawork" in the From a Certain Point of View collection...).

Canto Bight plays a peripheral role in the interlude tale. Eager to see that place on the silver screen. Not too far away, now.

By the end of the book I was happier with the overall experience than I suspected I'd be (based on one or two of the legends included).





*all of the stories are somewhat connected, making the overall feel like a bit of one long legend. So "intra" might be warranted.

Friday, October 27, 2017

From a Certain Point of View



Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View (2017)

Just finished reading this collection of 40 stories to celebrate the 40 years since Star Wars: A New Hope was released. Hoping for a bit of the "look and feel" of the old Tales From... series of books; a good crop of modern back story pieces. One neat thing is that the stories go in chronological order with the events in A New Hope: starting just before the movie opens and continuing through 'til the end.

Proceeds from the sale of this short story collection benefit the non-profit group First Book. All contributors have forgone any compensation for their work. So that's nice.

What's inside, you ask? Well, here are some short thoughts about these short stories. Of the 40 tales, I really like 18 of them and actively dislike 11. The other 11 are neither here nor there. I'm glad I bought the book, and I am pleased to have read it. Wide variation in quality and seriousness found herein.

1. Raymus (Gary Whitta)
A decent tale that might be trying too hard. Attempts to explain why Tantive IV rode to the Battle of Scarif aboard Profundity and why Vader's star destroyer Devastator was able to track the CR90 through hyperspace and follow it to Tatooine. Seemed a bit heavy-handed; but an OK story.

2. The Bucket (Christie Golden)
Another situation where a stormtrooper  switches sides, or at least thinks about it? Eh.

3. The Sith of Datawork (Ken Liu)
The first of the joke stories (perhaps?). All about low-ranking officers aboard Devastator trying to fill out bureaucratic forms to protect themselves from their failures. No thanks.

4. Stories in the Sand (Griffin McElroy)
A jawa who wants to see the stars, somehow interacts with and saves R2-D2 aboard the sandcrawler, before the Lars family purchases the astromech. We don't need to wedge this sort of constant strife at every moment into the existing story, creating a legion of secret heroes to whom the actual heroes owe their success. It's not...heroic.

5. Reirin (Sabaa Tahir)
A tale of a Force-sensitive Tusken Raider who just wants a better life. And secretly boards the same sandcrawler with the droids. Too much, people. The sandcrawler is full. No more passengers, please.

6. The Red One (Rae Carson)
The 'bad motivator' astromech that Owen Lars purchases first interacts with, and saves, R2-D2. Behind the scenes. Again. On the sandcrawler. He malfunctions on purpose to help R2 complete his mission to save the galaxy. Again, people. Not required to make everything that occurs on the screen be the secret work of the Force; each person a knowing participant in the saga. Some droids (and others) are extras. They have stories, etc, but they are not the heroes.

7. Rites (John Jackson Miller)
A Force-sensitive Tusken Raider who encounters the old hermit living on the edge of the Jundland Wastes. This author did a very nice job detailing the Tusken society in the wonderful novel "Kenobi". I liked this story, too.

8. Master and Apprentice (Claudia Gray)
Another good story. Obi-Wan, alone in the desert, still learning from his dearly departed Master, Qui-Gon. I certainly like Claudia Gray's writing.

9. Beru Whitesun Lars (Meg Cabot)
Aunt Beru speaking to us from beyond the grave. Mentions blue milk about 6 too many times. Pass.

10. The Luckless Rodian (Renee Ahdieh)
Greedo tries to make a play for Solo and, thank the maker, Han Shoots First. Good story.

11. Not for Nothing (Mur Lafferty)
A mediocre portion of a fictitious memoir about Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes. Covers some of their adventures working for Jabba.

12. We Don't Serve Thier Kind Here (Chuck Wendig)
Not good. In his own terrible turn of phrase, this story was like "...a hawked-up globba spit on top of a poodoo sundae." Terrible writer. End of story.

One minor note: Wendig strikes again, in terms of LGBT inclusiveness. Never one to not mention in a ham-fisted way a gay or lesbian couple, he manages to work one in here, too. It's the best thing about this bad writer's writing; but I wish it were worked into the story with more skill. Seems like he's just checking off a box...need to add a gay couple before I'm done.

13. The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper (Kelly Sue DeConnock and Matt Fraction)
Too long. Perhaps most like the old "Tales From...", in a way. Aims to introduce us to a whole range of minor cantina characters who are all small time crooks and low level operators. They screw each other over constantly, and drink too much, and are always looking to make a score. OK, I guess.

14. Added Muscle (Paul Dini)
Poor. First person tale, supposedly told by Boba Fett. Fett, as portrayed here, sounds like a whiny loser. Not buying it.

15. You Owe Me a Ride (Zoraida Cordova)
The Tonnika sisters. I like this one.

16. The Secrets of Long Snoot (Delilah S. Dawson)
Backstory for the Kubaz Garindan. Another good story, I'd wager.

17. Born in the Storm (Daniel Jose Older)
More jokes about filling out forms. Not funny. This is about a stormtrooper completing an Imperial Incident Report form. Toss is a bit of hackneyed "bad stormtrooper turns good" for a rating of: meh.

18. Laina (Wil Wheaton)
A heartbreaking tale, well told by an icon of the other best SciFi series around. Very good.

19. Fully Operational (Beth Revis)
The careful and calculating General Cassio Tagge thinks there may be a danger to the Rebels having stolen the Death Star plans at Scarif. He is alone among his High Command peers, however. Spoiler alert: he was right! A good read.

20. An Incident Report (Mallory Ortberg)
You guessed it! Another person filling out a form. This time its Admiral Motti writing to the powers that be on Coruscant to protest his shoddy treatment (and Force choking) and the hands (fingers?) of Darth Vader. Enough with the forms.

21. Change of Heart (Elizabeth Wein)
Another Imperial decides the bad guy side isn't for him anymore. This time we have an assistant interrogator, involved with Vader in the questioning/torture of Leia on the Death Star. He decides to join the Rebellion. At this sad rate, we'll have 50% of the Imps seen on screen defecting to the Alliance by the time we're done reading these stories.

22. Eclipse (Madeleine Roux)
Another heartbreaking tale. Well written. Bail and Breha Organa, home on Alderaan, first learn of the apparent loss of Tantive IV in the Battle of Scarif, then, still grieving, live through the last moments of their home planet together.

23. Verge of Greatness (Pablo Hidalgo)
A decent story of Tarkin claiming control of the Death Star by thwarting (and ultimately killing) Krennic. Told as a disjointed series of flash backs and flash forwards, also includes a strange interlude of Admiral Motti all but pledging to serve Tarkin if the Grand Moff wished to use the Death Star to leave the Empire.

24. Far Too Remote (Jeffrey Brown)
A single panel cartoon. What?

25. The Trigger (Kieron Gillen)
Dr. Aphra's first appearance outside of her comics, I'd wager. OK, I guess. Don't quite like Dr. Aphra.

26. Of MSE-6 and Men (Glen Weldon)
If a movie were to be made of this story, you'd find it in the adult section of the video store. Not good. Keep it together, Star Wars.

27. Bump (Ben Acker and Ben Blacker)
Finally a stormtrooper who has decided to stick with the Empire.

28. End of Watch (Adam Christopher)
An interesting tale wherein we get to watch the events of Luke, Han, and Chewie's Death Star prison break from the other side. The people in the Station Control West control room don't quite know what to make of all this tomfoolery going on down there. Kinda fun.

29. The Baptist (Nnedi Okorafor)
A compelling concept, a well written story. Perhaps trying a bit too hard. This suggests that the dianoga that attacks Luke in the Death Star trash compactor is sentient, Force-sensitive, and in fact is working on behalf of the Force to "baptize" Luke: transitioning him from boy to man.

30. Time of Death (Cavan Scott)
Another tale from beyond the grave. No blue milk mentioned, so that's good. This one has a cool vibe; a bit otherworldly and mysterious, as Obi-Wan struggles to learn about being a Force ghost.

31. There is Another (Gary D. Schmidt)
Yoda wishes he could train a Skywalker...just not Luke. A good story of the pre-Luke visit time on Dagobah.

32. Palpatine (Ian Doescher)
Oh no. A Palpatine Shakespearean soliloquy. Or a rap? No thank you.

33. Sparks (Paul S. Kemp)
The first of a few very nice stories about the Rebel starfighter attack on the Death Star.

34. Duty Roster (Jason Fry)
Another great tale of behind-the-scenes action during the desperate space battle around the Death Star. Probably can serve as the definitive guide for who's who in the various squadrons, considering the author. I would suspect he wanted to use this story to straighten out the canon in this regard once and for all; and I approve wholeheartedly. This story: 1. claims that there were more pilots that starfighters available to fly, and 2. attempts to explain the "Fake Wedge" guy, long mis-identified in the briefing room before the Battle of Yavin (as I recall).

35. Desert Son (Pierce Brown)
A tale of Biggs...meeting Luke at Yavin, then going out in a blaze of glory on the trench run. Nice.

36. Grounded (Gary Rucka)
The starfighter attack on the Death Star as seen from the point of view of the ground techs and support crews listening to the action via radio, as the fighting went on high above. Strangely enough, this tale contradicts the details in "Duty Roster" by claiming that Yavin base had more starfighters than they had available pilots. Three spare, space-worthy X-wings, just sitting there, this tale says. Unlikely, I'd say. "Duty Roster" is all about the tough choices Garven Dreis had to make about which pilots would fly the precious few craft they had on hand. An odd consistency mistake to have happen.

37. Contingency Plan (Alexander Freed)
A strange, alternate universe though experiment wherein Mon Mothma daydreams about possible futures, including surrendering in person to Palpatine.

38. The Angle (Chales Soule)
Lando somehow watching a black-market holo recording of the Death Star trench run, soon after it occurs, in some backwater bar half-way across the galaxy. Already bad; but to make it worse, he sees (and can identify) the Falcon in said footage. And he knows it's Han piloting. Unlikely, my friends.

39. By Whatever Sun (E.K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein)
Alderaan refugees, newly homeless, stick together during the medal ceremony at the end of A New Hope. They draw strength from seeing Leia's steely resolve up close and personal.

40. Whills (Tome Angleberger)
Bad. Another comedy piece, or something like that. Not good. Quit using important words and concepts (like the Whills) for dumb things like this.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

SWAJ 10


Just finished reading Star Wars Adventure Journal, Vol. 1, No. 10 (WEG, May 1996). A decent entry into the genre. In this issue we learn of the death of Brian Daley (The Han Solo Adventures, 1979, National Public Radio Dramatization Original Trilogy scripts, 1981, 1983, 1996). As the WEG team says, Clear Skies, Mr. Daley. 

We also learn of the upcoming release of the second X-Wing novel by Michael Stackpole, the forthcoming Star Wars RPG, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded (pictured below. Not my favorite edition from WEG; I prefer the blue book 2nd edition or the 1st edition books. This was the start of glossy pages and a mixture of real photos side by side with mediocre art...which somehow serves to underline the sometimes sketchy (pun intended) quality of some of the artwork).


This issue includes the Galaxywide NewsNets (a flavorful source for idea snippets), some Cracken's Rebel Field Guide entries, an article about TIE fighters, two or three decent short stories/adventure hooks, some references to Waldenbooks and B. Dalton's. Those were the days.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Leia


Just finished reading this new young adult novel, Leia: Princess of Alderaan (Claudia Gray, 2017). A very nice read, taking place 3 years before the events of A New Hope. The rebellion is forming, and Leia's parents Bail and Breha are at the heart of it. Leia herself is just beginning to become enmeshed in the still-behind-the-scenes struggle. She is still a young girl, not yet a Senator or Rebel leader.

Other than the Organas, Mon Mothma, Captain Antilles, and Grand Moff Tarkin, we don't know most of the other characters. There are no scenes of battle or desperate action. The book is laying the ground work for the ominous fight yet to come. Well written, good characterizations- a solid entry into my preferred canon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

X-Wing Homebrew


The FFG forum is a good place for serial complainers, like me. One of the ideas that has struck me recently is the gripe that recent X-Wing Miniatures Game releases have been poorly executed.

FFG wants (rightfully so) to get on the new movie band-wagon as soon as possible. However, they are not industry insiders enough to actually get real details about the ships, capabilities, and pilots they include in these slap-dash expansions.

A few examples are in order. For The Force Awakens, FFG decides to make a new starter set featuring the Resistance T-70 and the First Order TIE fighter. Sounds OK. I don't particularly like the idea of two starter sets for sale at the same time, but whatever. They also add both ships (in stand-alone form) as late-comer additions to the not yet released Wave 8. Strangely enough, these two add-ins are released before the rest of Wave 8, right around the time of the movie. (They weren't really members of Wave 8, were they?).

Anyway, on the T-70 side these brand new expansions feature such thrilling pilots as: Poe Dameron (makes sense), Blue Ace (as a "unique" pilot name), Red Ace (also unique...), and Ello Asty. The First Order side (like many Imperials before them) are less individualized and go for unique pilot cards with names like Omega Ace, Epsilon Leader, Zeta Ace, Omega Leader, Zeta Leader, and Epsilon Ace. Not very personable. What does this tell us? That FFG doesn't have any real info about who should be flying which ships. The Heroes of the Resistance pack, released later, brings in the other unique, named pilot cards who fly with Poe: Nien Nunb, Snap Wexley, and Jess Pava.

Ok. FFG can be forgiven for not being in the inner circle of developers on TFA. Understandable. I wish they'd had the ability to give two unique named T-70 pilots in both the TFA Core set and the T-70 expansion. That would've been better.

Next example. Another FFG attempt to strike while the iron's hot. This time we're awaiting the three ships of Wave 10 when they spring a pair of late entries on us. Again, two movie tie-in ships that pretend they were part of Wave 10 all along. These also arrive before the rest of their Wave counterparts (hint, they weren't really part of Wave 10). In this case, Rogue One is the movie that makes the dollar signs dance in front of FFG's eyes. Here their errors are arguably worse. The U-wing they design has a boarding ramp instead of a clear glass window (probably a last minute change by the film producers, but one that did not catch Lego unawares, just FFG in both the ship model and their art work).

The boarding ramp FFG thought was on the U-wing

The pre-movie release concept art that suggests, perhaps, said boarding ramp

The Rogue One Ultimate Visual Guide that shows the film-correct ventral viewport

The Lego U-wing is film-correct "transparent cockpit floor"


The U-wing expansion doesn't include pilot cards for fan-favorite and show stealer K-2S0, and it does include a pilot card for Bodhi Rook (who is neat, but never flew the U-wing). It also include a crew member, Bistan, whose scenes were cut from the movie altogether.

The other ship in this ill-fated Wave, the TIE Striker, also strikes out. In this case, the ship (as seen in the Ultimate Visual Guide) is a light bomber with a crew of two. Oops. Not communicated to FFG, apparently.

Which brings us to the latest edition of FFG rushing to print: the two Last Jedi tie-ins nominally called Wave 13 (which have SKU numbers lower than Wave 12). The TIE Silencer (which they designed without knowing what it does and who, other than Kylo Ren, might be a good named pilot for it) and the Resistance Bomber, about which FFG apparently knows even less. Such inspiring unique pilot names, here: Crimson Leader, Crimson something else, and one other name in quotes, meaning it isn't an actual character's name, just some sad words suggesting they don't know any more than the rest of us do about these things.

Long story short: I think it's past time for me to work up stats to re-configure this game, Homebrew style. I will be working on this for some time to come, and posting my ideas here. All with two guiding principles in mind:

1. Fluff rules. I care about game balance only as a distant secondary concern. And I would hope I need only care enough to worry about points costs.

2. Enough with the cards already. Playing this game is very messy. Plus the cards have all sorts of errata to them, meaning the printed copies aren't necessarily correct. My version will use an RPG-like character sheet, considering the upgrade cards to be like a list of Feats for d20 RPGs. Some have pre-requisites, etc. A clean and accessible game where all upgrade cards are always up-to-date because they are just text entries in a list.

We'll see where this takes us over the coming months...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Don't Underestimate the Force

FFG announces a 30th anniversary re-print of the WEG rules for the Star Wars RPG! Scheduled for release later this year, with two books in a slipcase.

Some new content, in the spirit of the old books. Mostly a higher quality re-print of the original greatness. New forward by Pablo Hidalgo. I already own these two books, and many of their successors over the years, but I am definitely going to buy these as well.

Good news!


   

The announcement:
https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/news/2017/8/16/dont-underestimate-the-force/

The product page:
https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/star-wars-the-roleplaying-game-30th-anniversary-edition/